2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Denali AKA Mt. McKinley

 

   
 
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   SNOW-BIRDING AT EAGLE HAMMOCK
RV PARK, KINGS BAY SUB BASE, GA.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19

 
We've got four years of full-timing and my husband says,  
"Old people shouldn't be having this much fun!"
 
~ comment on the online Carriage-Lifestyle RV forum
 
 
Ha! If you want to see how much fun retired folks from 55 to 85 can have, you should spend some time at any of the RV resorts from Florida to California when the snowbirds arrive for the winter!

This is our fourth time in three winters to hunker down at the Eagle Hammock RV Park on Kings Bay Submarine Base near St. Mary's, Georgia. It's so close to Florida we usually just tell folks we're in Florida.

This entry is a summary of our activities while in the area.


Lake D is just a few steps from our campsite.

In addition to lots of interesting places to visit on your own in the area, the campground has plenty of activities to keep folks as busy as they want to be, from van trips to the Okefenokee Swamp to group walks on nearby trails to more sedentary things at The Nest community room in the middle of the campground.

At The Nest we've participated in catered meals (Thanksgiving dinner, New Year's Eve party, pizza party, pancake breakfasts, brunches), potlucks, wine and cheese parties, and ice cream socials. Other folks enjoy weekly card games, sing-a-longs, and other group activities.

It's been fun to reconnect with folks we've met here before and to make new friends from all over the country. Military retirees are an interesting bunch!


Egret near fishing pier on Lake D

Casey and Cody have been even more socially active than Jim and I have. They've made lots of human and canine friends in the campground, the new dog park on base, and the dog park in the nearby town of St. Mary's.

Their very favorite new buddy is Cassie, a year-old female Bernese Mountain Dog:


Casey and Cassie run around in the dog park in St. Mary's.

Jim discovered the new, large dog park on base a couple weeks before its grand opening. A former soccer field was totally enclosed with fencing and divided into areas for small and large dogs.

It's been a great place for Jim to play ball with Casey and for her to meet new playmates:

On the day the dog park was dedicated about 50 dogs and their owners were present for the ceremony. Cody stuck as close to us as he could but Casey really worked the crowd! She even got her picture in the base newspaper twice.

FEELS LIKE HOME

Now that we're full-time RVing we're more inclined to stay longer in some places we really like. Kings Bay is one of those places. It really does feel like home to us.

This is the longest we've been in any one place since we retired eleven years ago -- four full months, from November 20 to March 20. We'll be leaving tomorrow to begin a slow journey west, culminating in our second trip to Alaska for the summer.

I've written about this RV park and Kings Bay Sub Base several times before (Feb. 7, 2013, Feb. 18 and Dec. 31, 2014, and Jan. 12, 2015 all have text and photos) so I won't go into a lot of detail here. I'll include mostly new photos taken since the beginning of this year.


View of our RV from a nearby bike path

Eagle Hammock has about 60 RV sites with full hookups, cable TV, and free WiFi for a very reasonable $540/month ($570 for lakeside sites). The daily rate is higher.

There are also two cabins that military folks or their guests can rent for only $60/day. We sponsored two guests while we were here and they were pleased with the accommodations and natural surroundings.

The campground has been more full this year than previously, with up to ten RVs piggy-backing onto the utilities on sites at the end of rows plus others dry camping in grassy areas. Here's an example:


The motorhome above the arrow is piggy-backed to the hookups in the site to the right;
the campground office is on the left.  Lake D is in the background, left.

We reserved a lakeside site several months in advance, but for only December, January, and February. We were able to come in ten days early and get a lakeside site but when we decided in early December to extend another twenty days in March, we had to move to a non-lakeside site on March 1.

With so many people here, we were lucky to get that. No special treatment -- we asked before other people did.

The base has approved the construction of another ten or twelve lakeside sites but they probably won't be built for a couple years (if you think the government moves slowly, the military moves even more slowly). We don't plan to return to Kings Bay next winter -- we're ready to go back to the Southwest desert again -- but next time we do, we'll make our reservations as soon as allowed.

We had a great lakeside site for thee-plus months -- first site, close to the entrance and office (free WiFi!), large front yard with no one on our doorside:

 

Our back-in site the first three weeks of March is also nice -- lots of grass on either side, good neighbors (including one of the campground host couples), still close to the office (can still access the free WiFi at our site), closer to the laundry room, and easy to walk the dogs to potty:

Campgrounds with full hookups don't get much better than this one. Maybe I should quit publicizing it or we won't be able to get in next time!

HIKES & BIKE RIDES ON BASE

This base has many miles of paved and unpaved roads, bike paths, and trails for us to ride and hike. Even when it was cold or raining (had too much of that this winter!**) Jim and I got out every day to get exercise.

** At least one day in December or January we noted that it was warmer in Anchorage than south Georgia!

My main outdoor activity was walking the dogs at Lake D, which is right outside our door. The trail around the lake is about three miles and there are lots of ways to shorten or lengthen that. Even though I showed several people how to get around the lake (no trail for about half of it), I rarely saw anyone else on the far side of the water:

On my walks I had fun taking photos of fall leaves back in November and December,

spring flowers in February and March,

 


Yellow jessamine


Fringe flower

birds like herons and egrets that winter here (the original snowbirds!),


Blue heron, with an alligator swimming beyond it (under arrow) in Lake D

armadillos (the dogs get all excited about those), and lots of alligators and turtles:

 

 

I've spotted more alligators and turtles than in previous winters, probably because I've got a better camera now with a 50x optical zoom (and another 50x digital zoom).

Now I can see what's on the far side of the lakeshore:


Are these turtles brave or about to win a Darwin Award?

I can see adult alligators with my naked eyes from several hundred feet away but I never would have seen those turtles close to this alligator without a good zoom lens.

I also discovered two baby 'gators that like to sun next to the channel of lake water that is close to our campsite. One is about three feet long,

the other about two feet long:

Aren't they cute??

They are young enough that Mom might still be nearby but I never did see her. I was fascinated enough with these little guys that I looked for them every day.

One day we found a baby frog (about one inch long) hopping around in the camper. You should have seen Jim, the dogs, and me try to catch that little rascal! We finally cornered it and tossed it back outside. Better a frog than a mouse . . .

I also got out a few times a week to ride my bike but didn't do as many miles as Jim did. My favorite places to ride were by the various ponds and lakes on base, Trident Lakes golf course,

and through Etowah Park, which allows tent camping for military families.

Jim rode his bike off-base several times to add variety and distance to his rides. I took this photo of the park in St. Mary's one time I rode there with him:

Another day we took guests to the St. Mary's Visitor Center, where we enjoyed the exhibits and radio museum; the National Park Service's Cumberland Island visitor center, which has nice nature displays; and the Cumberland Island Museum, which Jim and I hadn't visited before: 

 

Jim has signed up for a 148-mile bike race in Alaska in June so he has some incentive to put in lots of miles. He also plans to ride two gravel grinders in Texas in May. Although he couldn't do any meaningful hill training in this flat terrain he could work on distance and intensity.

We also worked out at the fitness center on base several times. I've been doing some physical therapy to strengthen my knees and was able to use the equipment there to supplement my home exercises.

Jim participated in two volunteer activities while we were at Kings Bay. One was sorting donated military clothing at the Uniform Locker. The other was manning a booth twice at the Navy Exchange (NEX) to recruit volunteers for the Red Cross:

His talents were under-utilized by both organizations but there just weren't any other better opportunities available that fit his interests and skills while we were on base.

OTHER SCENES FROM OFF-BASE

I took more photos of the historic tabby-walled McIntosh Sugar Mill just outside the main gate:

 

After one of my ferry rides to Cumberland Island I noticed this handsome tall ship at the dock in St. Mary's:

It's the "Peacemaker," a three-masted, square-rigged vessel built in Brazil with handsome woods inside and out. It's quite elegant -- and for sale with an elegant price to match.

We were able to board and tour it before it set sail for another port:

Most of the winter was fun and relaxing during our stay at Kings Bay. In addition to all the activities we did on and near Kings Bay, we also took several day drives to Florida. I'll have a separate entry for that, and another for photos from the three trips I took over to Cumberland Island.

More mundane tasks also had to be done, like finding local medical providers for our eye exams and new glasses and cortisone shots for our sore hand, shoulder, and knee joints.


Other boats in St. Mary's harbor

Finding good doctors takes some research but we were pleased with the specialists we found in Jacksonville. So far we've had no issues as new patients with getting in to see providers who accept Medicare and Tricare for Life.

Jim also did quite a bit of maintenance work on the Cameo, truck, and Odyssey to get them in tip-top shape before we start driving more miles this spring and summer.

Jim saves us a bundle of $$$ by doing so much work himself. He also maintains both of our bicycles.


View of the sunset from our site

One advantage of staying at military bases is being able to use their auto skills shops for routine vehicle maintenance. Jim can rent a lift for only $5 an hour, making fluid changes and other jobs much easier and safer than jacking up the vehicles and scooting under them.

He can also rent or borrow specialized tools there that he may not have, and get free advice -- or pay them reasonable rates to do work he doesn't want to do.

Jim used to do most of these jobs at our house between RV trips each spring and fall. With no house, however, that's no longer an option. Most RV parks prohibit doing any service work at our campsite, so now he saves most of these jobs for times when we're at a military base or post.


Moon over Kings Bay (playing with my camera zoom)

His biggest project this spring was installing hydraulic disc brakes on the Cameo to replace the original electric brakes. I'll talk about that in another entry.

WHERE NEXT?

As usual, we spent quite a bit of time this winter talking about our travel plans for the remainder of the year. It's an ongoing process and we often change our minds for various reasons.

We considered several different military RV parks from one end of Florida to the other and finally eliminated all but one of them based on what our research uncovered -- the Blue Angel Naval Recreation Area managed by Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola.

We plan to spend several weeks there. On the way we'll check out an Army rec. area called Grassy Pond. It's south of Valdosta, GA near the FL border.

Next entry:  scenes from three day trips to Florida -- the Tampa RV SuperShow, Rainbow Springs State Park, and Mayport Naval Station

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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